Evaluating a tumultuous Atlanta Braves off-season: can they now compete?

Brian Snitker accepts the award on behalf of the Atlanta Braves for Team of the Year during The 2021 Sports Illustrated Awards. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)
Brian Snitker accepts the award on behalf of the Atlanta Braves for Team of the Year during The 2021 Sports Illustrated Awards. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images) /
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Atlanta Braves outfielder Adam Duvall (14) stands near the batting cage with bench coach Walt Weiss (4) during spring training work outs at Cool Today Park. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports /

With Spring games set — finally — to begin on March 18, let’s start looking at the Atlanta Braves expectations for 2022.

What follows has become an annual ritual:  a series of questions and answers about the Atlanta Braves posed by Daniel Shoptaw (twitter:  @c70), who writes about the Cardinals over at CardinalsConclave.com.

He calls this “Playing Pepper”:  a tour through all MLB teams he doesn’t write about from the perspective of writers for each club.  Over the next few weeks, you may see some of the other responses to him about the Braves from other sites; today you’ll see my (lengthy) answers.

Many thanks to Daniel for the invitation to participate again this year.

The Atlanta Braves off-season

As a means of introduction, this has been an off-season unlike anything we’ve ever seen:

  • Early, in-season signings for the Braves
  • A quick strike in November
  • A flurry of free-agent signings around the league in an effort to “beat the clock”
  • 99 days of silence, acrimony, and finally… a labor deal
  • Now… another week of intense trades and signings

All the while, we waited with bated breath to learn the fate of one key player.  Then the point of no return came and everything has changed.

But the bottom line now is this:  can the Atlanta Braves win again?  That’s the overall subject of these questions, so let’s dig in.  Daniel asked and I’ll do my best to answer.

Question 1:  the off-season in detail

1) Not including lockout issues, tell me about Atlanta’s offseason. What did you like about it, what didn’t you like about it, was there something you were hoping for that didn’t happen?

Some things you have to be resigned to accept, and that includes the return of Marcell Ozuna.

While his chance to contribute as an offensive weapon is well known, I have long been campaigning for teams to have an “out” clause to terminate a contract for reasons of bad behavior. The Braves could not afford to become another “victim” of his actions by writing him a $53 million check to go away, so he’s back… for what it’s worth.

The quick signing of Manny Pina provides a solid backup for Travis d’Arnaud (and a nice power bat as well). This on the heels of the prior signings of d’Arnaud himself and Charlie Morton signaled early on that Alex Anthopoulos was not going to leave the core of this team without adequate support during this multi-year run.

I am disappointed at the loss of Freddie Freeman, but that may have come a bit from Freeman’s camp overplaying their hand. In the events that followed, the Braves clearly felt the need to go ahead and complete their off-season moves and not be left standing when the music stopped.

In that process, though, Anthopoulos came out with a spectacular result: not only landing the absolute best possible replacement in Matt Olson, but anchoring him to the club for at least 8 seasons.

It’s a shocking end of the Freeman era, but ensures that this core team will be competitive for at least the next 5 to 7 seasons.

The price for Olson was understandably high (and Oakland did very well there), but other than catcher Langeliers, the Braves can justify moving on without those prospects.  Of note, William Contreras is still in the organization, too.

Kirby Yates and Collin McHugh will certainly help a bullpen that found itself last fall… no reason to think that this is a weakness for the team as we thought early on in 2021.

The only disappointment, really, is that centerfield could not be properly addressed, which means Ronald Acuna will be at that position most often with Adam Duvall and Guillermo Heredia as backups. Here’s hoping that doesn’t stress Acuna’s repaired ACL.

My off-season dream scenario was to re-sign Freeman and trade for Bryan Reynolds. I can’t say that the club is any worse off given its actual new configuration.